It’s March! Happy International Women’s Month! The modern history of cannabis cultivation has been dominated by male narratives: whether its reports of the newest products or profiles of those working to end prohibition, women’s involvement is all too often ignored. But this wasn’t always the case. Cannabis’ history in folk medicine highlights the ways in which women have served as community leaders, healers, and sages.
As the stigma surrounding cannabis use slowly lessens, the work of female advocates, scientists, cultural workers, and producers is garnering more attention. Here are a few fun facts about women and cannabis across history:
Cannabis has been used to treat “female complaints” since antiquity
Medical records and ancient texts report cannabis use for all sorts of women’s maladies, including menstrual cramps, bloating, UTIs, and postpartum hemorrhage. In China, cannabis was used as an anesthetic in a variety of settings. Though use was first recorded in Persia, the Levant, Egypt, and China, later use in Europe (beginning around 1000 AD) included use in gynecological treatment.
Women make up some of the most vocal proponents for cannabis use
Celebrated writer Maya Angelou writes of her positive experiences with marijuana in her autobiography. Hildegard von Bingen, the badass 12th-century Benedictine abbess, espoused the benefits of hemp in medicine. And pioneering anthropologist Margaret Mead challenged marijuana prohibition in front of the US Senate in 1969, for which she endured plenty of conservative backlashes.
NORML has its own women’s coalition
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, one of the largest and most influential groups fighting for legalization, has an organizational arm—NORML Women’s Alliance—which aims to influence public policy, spread education, and encourage women’s participation in the cannabis legalization movement.
Women’s role in the world of cannabis is the most pertinent it’s ever been
Women compose some of the most vocal and spearheading activists and entrepreneurs in today’s growing cannabis industry. In 2017, only 27% of executive-level roles in cannabis companies were held by women.
Thus, the women leading in every niche of the industry are more important than ever. Some of the exciting projects headed by women include The Green Organic Dutchman—under the leadership of Jeanette VanderMarel and Alison Gordon—which help to facilitate clinical medical trials involving cannabis and epilepsy; Sara Gullickson, a former cannabis consultant who now oversees growing operations at Item 9 Labs; and attorney Amy Margolis, who has worked as a criminal lawyer and an attorney in the cannabis industry.